THE EASTER OPERATION [AN EXCERPT FROM “’KING ART”]

On April 14th, 1912, the TITANIC set off on its ill-starred maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. This big bastard boat, which had been proudly declared “unsinkable,” sank. You all know the story: maybe you even saw the movie. And yet: it seems certain people are not content to let the story end there. MERCURIUS UNLIMITED dispatched Special Correspondent Jay Lyte to investigate…

Mr. Warrington, sitting in his country house in Buckinghamshire, has the disconcerting habit of continually altering the volume at which he speaks. Right now his voice has dwindled to a whisper as he explains to me his bizarre scheme: and as I crane my head forwards, the better to grasp his words, he lets forth with a blistering scream:

“…to take control of the past!”

Now my ears are bleeding. Mr. Warrington does indeed plan to, if not control, then at least obliterate one aspect of our recent past. In his own words:

“You would agree, Mr. Lyte, that the sinking of the Titanic has come to exist as more than simply a detail of the history books. This event blazes out of history and exists as symbolism, as metaphor, within the present. We might well ask: as metaphor for what? Tragedy, Mr. Lyte. The Titanic disaster, occurring at the dawn of the 20th Century, confirms the tragic futility of mankind. All our pride and ambition will come to naught against Nature and Nature’s God. So why not blow ourselves up with grenades and with the Atom Bomb if the only alternative is to slowly, miserably, sink down to the icy depths along with our fellow travellers?

“What I and my associates are proposing is nothing less than an assault on Reality, Mr. Lyte. We are not content to live life as a tragedy and we shall not let the Titanic be the epitaph upon humanity’s grave. Our offensive against the past will be two-pronged: one team of cultural-engineers will be involved in systematically dismantling and destroying all references to the sinking of the Titanic. Newspapers, books and films will be replaced with our forgeries, and nobody will be able to tell the difference. Where we encounter opposition, Mr. Lyte, we will crush that opposition.

“The second phase of our operation consists of assembling the greatest living mechanics and having them build an exact replica of the boat. It will be docked in London, still sea-worthy. Even upon the closest of close examinations no-one will suspect that this ship isn’t one hundred years old. Make no mistake, Mr. Lyte: this is being done as we speak. We are in control. In just one generation’s time the idea that the Titanic sank will be regarded as a bizarre urban-myth that somehow gained currency, just briefly, in the last century. This is our gift to the future.”

The audacity of Mr. Warrington’s plans snakes through my neurons. I mumble something about the cost: he fixes me with a level gaze and states:

Money, Mr. Lyte, is quite simply not a problem to such as us.”

Aware of my status as a Serious Investigative Journalist I attempt to muster a Serious Investigative Question but nothing seems to come.

“What about um. You know. What about Free Will and stuff?”

He looks at me, an amused smile hiding behind his lips, and he says in a quiet but firm voice:

“Yes, Mr. Lyte. Perhaps you would like another cup of tea?”

What could I do but say yes? Yes please, Mr. Warrington.

So there you have it: bright Utopian fantasy or chilling Fascist scheme? Should we be thrilled to be rescued from a life of “tragic futility” or ought we rather wring our hands in despair and mutter grimly: “Where will it all end?” Who knows? This much is certain: come April 2012 the TITANIC sets off on its Celebratory Centenary Voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. Seats on the ship have already sold out for the event, with the great and the good snapping up the chance to be part of this historic occasion. We here at MERCURIUS UNLIMITED can only wish them well, and take this opportunity to remind them of the old saying: Those who do not remember the past are doomed to… Ah fuck. Doomed to something or other.

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